All the baptised are called to be missionary disciples in the circumstances of their life, according to Archbishop Julian Porteous, who recently published a new book exploring how Catholics can contribute to the Church’s mission.
Becoming Missionary Disciples is based on a series of presentations Archbishop Porteous gave in 2022 as part of the Evangelium Project.
In an interview with Catherine Sheehan, the Archbishop of Hobart explained how the book serves as an encouragement for Catholics to continue the task given to the apostles.
“Historically, the Church has always been involved in mission,” he said. “That was the original instruction that the Lord gave to his apostles at the Ascension, to go out to all the world and proclaim the Gospel. We’ve done that for 2,000 years.
“There’s been a tendency in the Church in recent centuries to say the mission of the Church is something that is the responsibility of priests and religious.
“Very clearly, particularly since the Second Vatican Council, the Popes have focused on the importance of mission as being the responsibility of all members of the Church. If you’re baptised, you’re called to be a missionary.”
While such a task may appear daunting to some, Archbishop Porteous said it was important for Catholics to courageously start taking small steps to witness to their faith.
“The Church really spread so rapidly in those early centuries because of the witness and the testimony of ordinary Catholics,” he said.
“It is the witness of people who live their faith, who have allowed the grace of God to enrich and transform their life – I believe this is how the faith can be transmitted most effectively in our time.”
Ordinary, simple moments and conversations in our daily lives can be opportunities to invite people to consider and embrace a life of faith, Archbishop Porteous said.
“I encourage people to have an attitude of inviting, and when the opportunities come, don’t pass them by, but invite people,” he said.
“Faith is, in the end, a grace. Faith is a result of the movement of God’s Holy Spirit. And so, what we are to be as missionary disciples is really agents of the action of the Holy Spirit.
“In the end, we’re not going to convert people. It’s not going to be our arguments or our ability to articulate the faith necessarily that will bring people to faith. It’s rather that we are there to be instruments, means by which the Holy Spirit can move in people’s lives.”
The 150-page book is divided into three sections – heart, head and hands – reflecting the process of becoming a missionary disciple. This process begins with an awareness of the transformation that has taken place in our lives as a result of a genuine encounter with Christ (the heart); followed by an understanding of who we are as believers (the head); and finally the practical aspects of bringing Christ to others (the hands).
Stephen Lawrence from Melbourne’s Emmanuel Catholic Community described the new book as a “fresh, simple and yet powerful handbook” for becoming missionary disciples.
“Faithful to the content of the Tradition yet at the same time applying creativity for, sensitivity to and penetrating insight into the contemporary cultural landscape, he brings Scripture alive and shares personal stories in what is a spiritual manual, a ‘practical how-to-evangelise’ and a rich source of sayings from the most recent Popes all rolled into one,” he said.
Becoming Missionary Disciples can be purchased for $24.95 from Connor Court Publishing.